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(Compiled by Stanley Casto from his "Additional Records of the Passenger Pigeon in Texas," Bulletin of the Texas Ornithological Society 34(1):5-16 (2001). Augmented and edited by Joel Greenberg)
Passenger pigeons in most years were winter residents, inhabiting much of northeastern Texas from September through March. They were numerous along the headwaters of the Trinity and Neches Rivers. In 1843, though, huge numbers of birds were seen flying over Nacodoches in late March and observations continued that year until June.
Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:
Three were said to have been shot in 1896. More intriguing are two birds seen in a game market in Galveston in March 1900. The dealer said they were wild pigeons but the observer was not familiar with them and described them in a note published in a hunting publication. Harry Oberholser, in Bird Life of Texas (1974) declared that they were passenger pigeons and the last to be taken in the state. Indeed, if true, they would be among the last taken anywhere. No known museum skins originated in Texas.
Places Likely Named for Passenger Pigeon:
There are at least 7 places in Texas with pigeon in the name:
Pigeon Roost Creek (stream) in Bandera County, Cass County, Leon County, and San Augustine County
Pigeonroost Hollow (valley) in Bastrop County
Pigeon Roost Branch (stream) in Houston County
Pigeon Creek (stream) in Sabine County
Skeletal remains have been found at three prehistoric archaeological sites in Cherokee and Bowie counties and at six mid to late 19th Century homestead sites in Dallas and Tarrant counties.
A few reports indicate that some pigeons occasionally remained to nest in Texas. During May 1873, thousands of young were reportedly hatched at a rookery on Briar Branch, about 10 miles from Decatur in Wise County (Galveston Daily News, 20 May 1873, p. 3). An egg collected by Edmond Floyd Pope on 3 May 1887 near Mobile in northwestern Tyler County represents the only physical documentation of nesting in Texas.
The roosts of Passenger Pigeons often contained millions of birds and their evening arrival in vast numbers presented an almost indescribable spectacle. The combined weight of the enormous numbers of birds often broke even the stoutest branches leaving trees stripped of limbs and foliage as if a cyclone had passed. Smaller trees and saplings were sometimes crushed to the ground and broken off at the roots. Guano, which accumulated to depths of a foot or more at roosts such as the one on Wolf Creek north of Palestine, completed the devastation by killing all ground level vegetation.
Numerous references allude to the importance of oak mast (acorns) in fattening free-ranging hogs and to the competition between wild pigeons and pigs for this resource. Upon their arrival the immense flocks of pigeons quickly decimated the food available to hogs, as well as to squirrels, turkeys, deer and other species that also fed on mast. Given this consequence, arrival of the pigeons generated considerable anxiety. In 1872, pigeons were destroying the mast in Cherokee and Madison counties. During 1874 Marion, Grayson, Houston, Smith, and Titus counties were adversely affected. Depletion of the mast was so great in Anderson and Jasper counties during 1875 that it threatened the food supply for hogs. Concern for the mast crop was reported during 1881 from Houston, Nacogdoches, Van Zandt, Bastrop, Burnet, and Smith counties.
There is no evidence of an organized commerce in live birds or in the flesh of the Passenger Pigeon in Texas. The birds taken by individual hunters were probably sold directly to local markets, hotels and restaurants or peddled door-to-door. During the invasion of 1872, wild pigeons were featured in the restaurants of Austin. In November 1881 the birds taken at a roost near Bastrop were sold in the community for 50 cents a dozen. During the 1890s, Frank Armstrong of Brownsville advertised pigeon skins at prices ranging from $1.50 to $3.00. Around 1899 Edwin Davis of Gainesville offered sets of eggs at 40 cents per set. The origin of specimens offered by Armstrong and Davis is unknown.
Trap shooting was popular in Texas and large numbers of Passenger Pigeons were used at the annual “State Shoot” or “State Pigeon Tournament” conducted by the Texas State Sportsmen’s Association. Five thousand pigeons obtained from Chicago were slaughtered at the 1880 shoot in Dallas. The tournament of 1882 featured 5,000 pigeons from the rookery near Sparta, Wisconsin. The competition in Lampasas in 1883 used 4,000 pigeons, as well as glass balls and clay targets. The last known use of pigeons was in 1891 at the meet held in San Antonio.
Texas Locations Known to Have Passenger Pigeon Skins, Mounts, and or Skeletons:
Fort Worth: Fort Worth Museum of Science and Industry
McKinney: * Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary
Mt. Vernon: Franklin County Museum (has an egg)
San Antonio: *Buckhorn Saloon and Museum
Stinton: *Welder Wildlife Foundation
* If an asterisk appears, at least one passenger pigeon is known to be on display; this list is mainly based on Hahn's Where is That Vanished Bird (1963). Please let us know of any changes including additional locations and/or birds on display, name changes of institution, if birds are no longer present, etc.
Read Fascinating Historical Accounts of the Passenger Pigeon in Texas
Wisconsin’s A.W. [Bill] Schorger (1884-1972) spent many years researching the history of the Passenger Pigeon, and he summarized his findings in his 1955 book, The Passenger Pigeon: Its Natural History and Extinction. At the time of its publication, the book was the most comprehensive account of the species. Schorger did an excellent job summarizing the nearly 10,000 historical records he discovered in libraries and historical societies around the country, but his original research notes contain many additional details.
For the 2014 centennial, Professor Stanley Temple of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has made all Schorger’s handwritten research notes available in digital form. This link will take you to a table that provides details of all the historical records Bill Schorger discovered for Texas. [Schorger-TX.pdf]
Read Historical Accounts from Shorger's Original Field Notes about the Passenger Pigeon in Texas
These sources are newly available on the Passenger Pigeon site (as of January 25, 2014). The links below give access to often-firsthand, eyewitness accounts of pigeons, the table includes a cross reference to the exact page in Schorger’s notes where you can read the full text of the account and find a citation of the original source document. All these historical documents are in PDF format in sizes ranging from 24mb - 60mb. These documents will open in their own window. Use the links below to find the page containing the account you’re interested in exploring further:
Schorger pages 1-329
Schorger pages 330-632
Schorger pages 633-959
Schorger pages 960-1242
Schorger pages 1243-1585
Schorger pages 1586-1890
Schorger pages 1891-2232
Schorger pages 2233-2556
_________________ Your text contributions on passenger pigeons
in the U.S. or Canada are welcome. Email your text notes to us. Include: first and last name, and the State or Province you reference in the Subject Line. (Return to Home Page Map of Project Passenger Pigeon)
Your text contributions on passenger pigeons
in the U.S. or Canada are welcome. Email your text notes to us. Include: first and last name, and the State or Province you reference in the Subject Line.
(Return to Home Page Map of Project Passenger Pigeon)